A blog of art, photography, food and writings.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


As of late, I've been obsessed with the burn on the back of my throat when eating olive oil on various dishes I've prepared. At times, I think it's in my head, an imaginary pungency. How could the benign olive create an oil that has heat? I ask myself.

At the dinner table, I pose this question to my family, "Do you feel it?"

"Feel what?" my husband and daughter blandly respond.

"The burn. The bite. The fire," I press on.

"Nope, don't feel it," they say in unison.

I take another bite of olive-oil drenched veggies, then start to cough and sputter all alone at the end of the table. No one else is having this reaction.

When we reach this type of crossroads--the "food analysis" juncture--I realize that I'm often alone. Though my husband does love food, he inhales it so quickly that there's no time for savoring the subtleties of an ingredient or complexities of a dish: my main objective when eating. I love to hash over the culinary details, talk about the nuances of flavor--even try to uncover the reasons why olive oil has heat.

Thankfully, I sometimes get my answers from Harold McGee, the food writer and kitchen chemist.

For months now I've been on a search for a smooth olive oil. I've bought bottle after bottle, thinking that the next one will be cool like custard. But then, I continue to cough when the pungency reaches the back of my throat.

So why does this happen?

According to Harold McGee's recent blog posting on June 22nd, the culprit is oleocanthal, a phenolic compound. This cough-inducing chemical is supposed to provide a balance to the fruity flavor in the oil. But for me, it's too strong.

What I've discovered after buying numerous brands and spending lots of money, is that hands down, Paul Newman's organic olive oil is the winner. Smooth, and not pungent. Perhaps it's just a personal preference, but if Mr. Newman's brand keeps me from coughing while I'm trying to enjoy a meal, hey, that's good enough for me.

But Harold...I have a question for you? Why do some people feel the heat and others don't? Perhaps we'll get to the bottom of this burning inquiry at another time...

Harold McGee's blog posting on olive oil pungency and bitterness


Wednesday, June 20, 2007


watercolor, by Rena Williams, Auburn, Alabama
from her "Sketchbooks" collection

Rena Williams's Blog
Rattling Gourd Gallery website

Visit Sarojni's website
Email Sarojni

Monday, June 18, 2007


About a week ago, I had a revelation while being amongst some young adults: Boy, do they have artistic gifts!

A friend of mine (my girlfriend's husband) recently came to the U.S. for his yearly stint as a guide for French tourists each spring and summer season. On his flight over from Europe, Thierry was accompanied by his niece, Sophie Viale, who is an up and coming artist from Italy. Sophie is here for three months to paint, learn English, and to get a feel for life in America.

On the 9th, my family and I enjoyed a lunch out with Thierry and Sophie, and afterwards, we were invited to some friends' house for a late afternoon barbecue. I told my foreign visitors that we should accept the invitation because the Mitchell family was very artistic and Sophie would feel a camaraderie with them. This family is full of talent. Each member paints, draws, plays an instrument, and the oldest son, Milo (my web designer), makes incredible videos and animated shorts.

Needless to say, we went to the barbecue. After our delicious meal in a park-like backyard, we all moved inside the house so the "kids" could start sharing their work. Sophie brought out her laptop and showed everyone photos of her paintings, which were well organized on her website. We were all captivated. Milo showed us a video of wildlife in the desert and then shared one of his animated movies.

As I sat on a couch nearby listening to the conversations and looking at the artwork by these young people, I felt a sense of happiness and excitement. How wonderful that they cultivate their own natural talents, how fantastic that the parents encourage their children's gifts.

Though I personally don't paint or take photos, I do enjoy viewing art that others have created, whether it be sculpture or knitted scarves. It simply gives me pleasure to see creativity in any form.

So be sure to keep visiting my blog, because I will continue to weave in the work of artists between my own postings. As you probably know, Rena Williams is one of my favorites.

Friday, June 15, 2007


In addition to receiving Bon Appetit every month (a yearly gift from my father) I also get Sunset magazine, which I have faithfully been reading since high school. I love the layout, articles, food section and travel pieces. As with Bon Appetit, I try recipes each month in Sunset as well, and usually have good results.

Last night I made chipotle meatballs for my husband, who is a smoky-chile addict. I personally don't eat red meat (I follow Dr. D'Adamo's blood type diet and for blood Type A, red meat is an "avoid"), but I did try a bite of the meatballs and thought they were tasty. I used organic, ground beef and followed the recipe except for adding the hard-boiled eggs (a rushed dinner). I think this would have made the dish even better.

Next time around...

If you're itchin' to try some smoky-flavored meatballs, check out the link below:

Stuffed Chipotle Meatballs, Sunset Magazine, June 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007


Well, the front cover of Bon Appetit (June issue) finally snagged me yesterday with that mouth-watering photo of layered chicken enchiladas with a tomatillo sauce.

I've been a long-time devotee of Bon Appetit and almost every month I try at least one or two recipes. Doesn't matter how daunting, time-consuming, or complicated the recipes are; if they grab me, I start cooking (or baking!). And what better day to spend HOURS in the kitchen than on a quiet Sunday afternoon? That's exactly what I did and wasn't at all disappointed with the results. Can't complain either about the sense of pride that also works its way into the cooking equation.

However, my inspiration only got me through the first couple hours and then I needed a stool at the stove because my legs got tired. Oh well...

The recipe included a melange of flavorful ingredients, but was very time-consuming. Take a look at some of the separate steps involved just to get to the assembling phase:

--peel, wash, boil, blend the tomatillos with jalapenos, garlic, parsley, cilantro, mint. Then cook the sauce.
-char the poblanos on the burner, then peel and seed them
-lightly fry 12 tortillas
-grate the cheese
-shred the roasted chicken
-make the marinated onions (preferably the night before)

The layering was the easy part, the baking a breeze. But like I said, there were many steps--not too different from making a lasagna or eggplant parmigiana from scratch.

If you're inspired to try this enchilada recipe (serves 6) I urge you to allow a lot of time. Trust me, it'll be worth it and your family will love this dish--especially with the fuchsia-colored onions. They are an incredibly delicious accompaniment and could become habit-forming.

Bon Appetit!

Stacked Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde and Cheese

Salsa Verde

Pickled Red Onions


Monday, June 04, 2007


photo by Sumi M. Lissak

Okay folks. Today's posting is not on food, family, or art. It's on the adventures of city living and how nature intersects the urban environment in clandestine ways.

Last night, while my husband and I were sitting in the family room watching TV, I saw a rat-like object enter our living room through a patio door. Besides its little armadillo shape, the main thing I noticed about the intruder was that darn tail, which dragged along the carpet like a slithering snake. The whole thing gave me the creeps because I had no idea how to get a rat out of the house. And I know they move fast--so we had to act with speed as well, before it dashed into other rooms.

At this point you're probably asking, "Why do they have rats?" "How can these beastly creatures enter their house?"

The answer is simple: My family and I live in East Long Beach (CA) in a section called The Cliff May Ranchos. Built in the mid-50s, these "California-style" homes were designed to meld the indoors with the outdoors. This means lots of windows and patio doors that swing outward, expanding the living area to include garden views and intimate settings. This also means there are no screens in these homes.

Because of this unique architecture, through the years we've had a number of visitors, from lizards to birds to large possums slinking behind furniture. Around our pool is a fence covered with thick ivy. Our hunch is that many animals enjoy hiding and living deep within this rambling vine. At night, the nocturnal types wander out to explore and search for food and water. Oftentimes, they cross the threshold of an open door and come face to face with humans.

Last night, a baby did just that, getting lost while on its hunt for yummy bugs and free fruit.

To find out if this animal was really a rat, we had our dog sniff out the hiding place. Sure enough, Lunah found the little animal in two seconds flat. It was underneath a comfy chair. My husband tilted it back, and lo and behold, there it was: a baby possum, shivering in fright.

My husband threw a blanket over it, put it in a bucket, and then we all proceeded to "ooh" and "aah" for a few minutes while it constantly hissed at us. After my daughter took pictures, my husband--reluctantly--released the little babe back into the ivy. His final words to us: "Do possums make good family pets?"

Never a dull moment in the city...
Never a dull moment in our home...